Who are your readers?

I have to admit, I get a lot of blog ideas from Twitter. It’s a great place to “eavesdrop” on people who complain talk about agents, querying, reviews, and writing in general.

Unwisely, I stuck my nose into a thread, and while she was polite in response, I could tell my opinion wasn’t welcome.

The thread was talking about silly things people have said about your work. The reason I stuck my nose in was what the person had told her wasn’t all that silly. I’ll write a separate blog post about that, but it did make me think–who is your reader?

who is your reader

You don’t want everyone to read your book, or you’ll end up with reviews like: “I didn’t like this book. It all it had was romance in it, and I hate romance novels” when you write contemporary romance. Or someone who reads your horror who prefers sci-fi. You want people who like your genre to read your books.

So who are you writing for? Knowing this information is helpful in a lot of ways:

  1. It will help you buy/target ads. When you have a person and their lifestyle in mind, it’s easier to target ads.
  2. You’ll know where your readers hang out online, and in real-life. My trilogy is about characters who run (the sport). I could set up a table at a women’s run expo. When I bought my cat to the vet, there was a self-published book about adopting animals sitting on a table in the waiting area. How did I know it was self-published? It had the KDP Print stamp on the back page. Depending on the author and his or her marketing tactics, that book could be sitting in every vet’s office in the city.
  3. You’ll write better. Know who your audience is, and you can tailor your books just for them. Yes, this is the evil writing to market, but if you have your reader in mind, not only do you have a built in audience–you’re assuring future sales of your work.
  4. It helps with networking. Romance writers are the most generous writers out there. They love to share information and support. The RWA is fantastic. Knowing what genre you’re writing in can help you find your online support group.

I was thinking then, who is MY reader?

To figure that out, you need to know what you’re writing.

I write contemporary romance books. My books contain real-life problems. My characters aren’t always rich, and if they are, I make sure their lives are miserable in other ways.

My characters worry about paying bills, affording the mortgage. They have ex-spouses. They find themselves in trouble of their own making, sometimes they are at the mercy of others. Their lives are hard. But I hope I write my characters as likable, lovable, people. People you grow to care about–people you would want to be friends with in real life.

They also fall in love, even if they don’t want to. Even if they think they don’t deserve it. Even if being together forever is going to take a helluva lot of work. They did the work, they grew, they learned from mistakes, and their lives are better for it. They live happily ever after.

My books may contain a glimmer of a mystery, but nothing that would put them in the romantic suspense category. My books don’t contain magical elements the way a lot of Nora Roberts’s books do. My books usually contain someone who is bitter and jealous and likes to make others miserable. I do realize that’s a trope I’ve used often, and it’s in the back of my mind when I write more books I need to lean on other plot conventions going forward.

My characters are usually in their thirties. They struggle with finding a partner. Their biological clocks are ticking. They’re getting married. Holding real jobs, making car payments.

I probably won’t stay too far from this type of book.

A bare “man chest” on one of my covers would look out of place. My characters have sex, but they lack the “dangerous edge” that those books seem to contain. No sexual rules are broken, no one is tied up as prisoner. Sex is used to express feelings, falling in love. I know the types of books that need a dangerous man on the front of their covers, and my books are not them.

This is all very helpful because now I can pin down who wants to read my books.


My reader is probably someone like me. (I’m hoping you write the kinds of books you enjoy reading, and I hope you read in the genre you enjoy writing.)

I’m in my early forties, but my characters are usually in their thirties. I do this for a couple reasons: Because of my age, I don’t care to read about younger characters so I don’t write them. And I think it gives me a little flexibility when it comes to my readership. So I think my base readership is, maybe,  25-55 years old. I wouldn’t go any younger than twenty-five. My subject matter wouldn’t interest a young adult. That’s what YA and NA is for, and all the “dangerous man chest” books I was talking about earlier seem to have a younger heroine, so maybe those types of books have a younger (18-25 year old) readership.

Having a picture in mind of the woman who reads my books, let’s call her Jane.

jane, my reader

Jane is 25-55. She might have children. She probably does. She has a day job. Maybe it’s a bit stressful. She could be an office manager, or a professional, like an HR director or a nurse. Maybe she’s a stay at home mom. She appreciates a light read–something she doesn’t have to think too hard about to enjoy. When does she read?

  • Maybe half an hour before bed.
  • During her kids’ nap times.
  • Maybe in the tub if she can get a few minutes to herself.
  • Maybe while her kids watch TV, or her husband takes them to grandma’s for the afternoon.

She doesn’t have much time to herself–she brings a Kindle to her son’s dance practice, and to her daughter’s soccer games. She likes a cup of coffee to sip on and a cat in her lap while she reads. She owns a mini-van or SUV. Her husband works a lot. Or maybe she’s divorced. A lot of women in their thirties and forties are these days. That doesn’t mean she wouldn’t enjoy reading about a meet-cute in the pick up line at school.

She might feel unattractive or frumpy (kids will do that to you).  She wants to work out but she doesn’t have time. A trip to the salon is a luxury for her time-wise. Maybe she likes her Kindle for the cheaper books. Or her life could be a bit happier–her parents live near her, which means she has plenty of help with her kids. She loves her job. She and her husband still get along.

Where does Jane hang out online? She shops on Amazon, of course.  Maybe she buys her kids’ clothes, and things for herself at Kohls.com. As for social media, she’s on Facebook, because who isn’t? She posts pictures of her kids, and maybe she’s joined a mom’s group or two. I don’t think she’s on Instagram, but I could be wrong. I think she’s more interested in Pinterest right now, for recipes and craft ideas for the kids. Maybe that’s her way of looking for hair styles. If her kids are small, she might hang out on websites like BabyCenter.

Lots of different kinds of women live different kinds of lives, and I don’t want to make assumptions just how my reader lives because I’m only limiting myself if I do that. The only real assumption I can make is the busier she is, the less likely she has time to read, but then I’m not aiming my ads at her, and she wouldn’t be interested if she saw them.

Anyway, Jane likes to read. She reads three or four books a month.

Now that you have your reader in mind, how do they sync up with your books? How would I target an ad with what I know about my reader?

I could target her with these keywords and groups:

  • coffee drinker
  • pet owner
  • mother, step-mother
  • mini-van driver, or SUV
  • Divorced (I include both groups since my characters have been divorced and are looking for a second chance at love)
  • Happily married
  • likes bubble baths
  • likes to drink wine
  • loves chocolate

What books would she read that are similar to yours? Target those authors and their readers. Though if you target Nora Roberts and well-known authors like her, your bid to make your ad seen is going to have to be very high–so think of some mid-list, not-so-well-known authors in your genre who are moving books. (Ad targeting and how to do it is a different blog post, and I’m not experienced enough to do that for you. There are lots of authors out there who will share their experiences such as Michael Cooper and Mark Dawson.)

My books have a tone like Nora Roberts, Robyn Carr, Brenda Novak. Maybe Jennifer Crusie, but hers are more funny and on the chick-lit side of things than mine are. Still, her readers may be willing to cross over to my books. I read Jennifer Crusie, but that doesn’t mean all I read is chick-lit.

This is a good reason to stop into a bookstore. Locate the shelf where your books would be and write down the authors your book would be neighbors with. Especially the authors you’ve never heard before.

If you don’t know where your book would be shelved–that’s a problem. Look at general fiction, or literary fiction, and do your best.

Their readers are your readers. Those are paperbacks–and lots of popular authors are indie and offer e-book only. That’s fine–Google the top Amazon 100 in your genre. Again, find books similar to yours.

Knowing who your reader is helps you write the books they enjoy reading. I KNOW you’re supposed to love what you’re writing, but if you can’t find anyone who will enjoy reading it, what’s the point of writing it? Self-satisfaction only goes so far. (Yes, my mind went there!)

Writing to Market

And knowing what your reader likes, dislikes, what she wears, where she works out, can help you target your ideal audience when you’re ready to target ads.

It’s always a surprise to me how many people write books with no audience in mind.

It’s imperative you know who your reader is or you can’t find them to advertise to them.

Create a character like Jane. Figure out her likes and dislikes.

That’s a great place to start!

PS

This is just a small end note:

Did you see anywhere where I said my reader is also a writer? Is Jane writing her own book right now? Does she go to writing conferences, or attend a writer’s group? Do I know Jane from the #writerscommunity on Twitter?

No.

No, I do not.

Do you know why? Because my readers are not part of the writing community. Yes, I read romance, and yes, I am part of the writing community on Twitter. But if I were to market my books as if my readers were nowhere but part of the writing community online, I wouldn’t have very many readers. I represent a minuscule amount of people like me, and people like me who will read your book will not make your career.

And, maybe more importantly, I don’t WANT my readers to be writers. Writers are picky and hard to please. Do you know how I know? Because I read like that. And I don’t want my books to be read the way I read.

And neither should you.

writers are not readers

I appreciate my friends who take the time to read my books. But I learned a long time ago that my readers are not on Twitter. If you can have a light bulb moment like that, marketing your book will suddenly become a lot easier.

look beyond twitter for readers

Who are your readers?

 

Thanks for reading!

jared and leah for end of blog posts

When Friends Turn into Business Partners . . . Sometimes it doesn’t work out

friends to business parnters blog post

I’ve never met a community so full of people willing to help. I’ve met authors who will share anything and everything. How they use ads, how they write blurbs and the resources that taught them how. They share their favorite blogs, podcasts, promo sites, non-fiction books. There are even authors who will share how much they make in sales.

So many authors are helpful and generous. (And if you run into one who won’t share anything, well, keep an eye out. I’ve found those people are users, and you won’t get anything in return for the information you share with them.)

I’ve made a few friends on Twitter. Some are better friends than anyone I’ve met in real life. Some have come and gone. Some needed so much hand-holding it was physically draining to be friends with them. Some acted like their work was the only thing worth discussing, and I’ve faded away because I believe friendship should work both ways.

I’ve had some small successes as an author, and I like to share, too. It’s a horrible feeling to be snubbed when sharing something you’re proud of.

friends or enemies

But there are those who stick around–you feel a kinship, support goes both ways, and you settle into an online routine of touching base, reading each other’s blogs, retweeting news and book cover reveals, and helping with book launches.

Inevitably this will lead to your friendship moving more into a business relationship.

You’ll be asked to edit for someone or do a cover. Maybe she needs a critique partner or he needs a beta reader. It could even be as simple as doing an author interview for a blog.

Friendships can easily blur into business and while the transition feels easy and breezy, if you don’t treat that relationship with the respect it deserves, not only are you risking your business relationship with that person, your friendship will be broken as well.

The culprit of all this is the nonchalance and the cavalier attitude of writers. They aren’t treating their business with the respect it deserves, so they see no harm in treating you the same way.

I treat my books as a business. I always have and I always will. When I do something for you, I do it in a decent amount of time, and to the best of my ability. And that’s always what I’ve done.

business peers

But I haven’t always been treated with the same courtesy.

I paid someone to edit for me, and one day she told me she was editing my book while she was having her hair done at the salon. I guess it was too much to ask that she edit my book in a quiet place where she could focus. I paid another, and she waited months before even starting to edit my book. I have patience–I have two children, three cats, and an ex-husband. I have patience. But when you pay someone for a service, even if she’s a friend, you expect them to treat you with professionalism.

Those people were my friends. Circumstances being what they were at the time . . . they aren’t anymore.

What’s funny is recently one of them asked me for a favor. I guess it wasn’t so funny when I didn’t respond.

Most of the time I can separate friendship from business. (I treat my Twitter account as part of my business, and I rarely unfollow anyone for crappy behavior. Most times the only thing that will earn you an unfollow is if you do it to me first.) And I can stay in touch with someone friendship-wise even if we don’t/didn’t work together so well in the business aspect of things.

I edited for someone, and that didn’t work out like I had expected. We’re still friends because I expressed how I felt, and she apologized. I don’t hold grudges, but just like anyone else, I remember how people treat me.

When you treat someone like crap, you’re burning bridges, plain and simple. The author so quick to help you? They may not be so quick to pull through for you next time.

So what can you do to keep your friendships intact if it moves into business territory?

  1. Set boundaries and expectations.
    Before work exchanges hands, hammer out what expectations are. Does she expect to get paid? Is she doing it for free? Are you sure? Is there an expectation you’re going to help her down the road? Is there a deadline? Can your friend meet it? If she can’t, can you change it? If you’re too rigid with what you need, it’s better for your friend to pass. Which brings me to:
  2. Don’t be angry if your friend can’t meet your needs.
    A lot of indie business is trade and favors. Money doesn’t always exchange hands. That’s common when indies operate in the red–especially when just starting out. You may feel desperate because if this particular friend can’t help you, who will? People who know what they are doing, and willing to do it for free or on the cheap are few. If you need her, it’s YOUR job to bend, not hers. If you can’t, understand where she’s coming from, take a deep breath, and move on. While writing is a business, it will always come in secondary to children, jobs that pay the bills, and maybe even an evening of self-care if she’s had a bad day. If your needs are more important than that, hire out and pay for the priority. Your friend helping you isn’t a right–it’s a privilege.
  3. Keep communication open.
    Maybe you think she’s not working fast enough. Or you haven’t heard from her in a couple of days. Or worse yet, you haven’t heard from her, yet she’s posting on social media. It’s easy to go from simmering to boiling if you expect her to be working on your project but she’s posting a new blog post every day. It’s easy to get annoyed–trust me, I know. Maybe she already had them scheduled, and she IS working on your stuff. You won’t know unless you ask. If you need constant reassurance like daily updates, request it before you give her the project. That way you can remind her you asked.
  4. Keep social media in mind.
    When I edited for my friend, she never stopped posting her publication date. She was building buzz–I get that. But her manuscript needed work, and the more she posted and the more I edited, the angrier I became until eventually I felt like I was doing it for nothing. So remember–you are friends and she can see what you tweet, post on your Facebook author page, blog, and anything snarky by way of a bitchy meme on Instagram. But the same goes for her. If she’s tweeting she’s editing a pile of garbage, or the person she’s editing for is dumber than a box of rocks . . . you may need to rethink if you want her working on your project. A good friend doesn’t necessarily translate into a good business partner. (I would rethink my friendship with anyone who would put something like that out into the world, anyway.)
  5. Know when to quit.
    Ideally, you want to work things out before this step. If you can’t, the next best thing is to back out before your business relationship destroys your friendship. Be clear why you don’t want to work with him anymore. Try not to let hurt feelings muddy the water. He may have hurt your feelings, but that is only as a bi-product of unprofessional behavior that may not have been intentional. And don’t flip out if he has to back out on you. Maybe it has nothing to do with professionalism. His private issues are none of your business unless he wants to divulge them. That depends on how good of friends you are. But if it is due to not being able to work together, learn from the experience and move on. Having a truthful “We make better friends than business partners” talk can salvage a friendship. Don’t be defensive.

Not all friendships cum business relationships are going to fail. I’ve heard of several people who have worked together for years. There relationships are based on respect and a mutual admiration of each other’s work.

It’s up to you how much you can take–and it’s up to your friend what her limits are if you’re the one behaving badly. Publishing is scary and stressful, but alienating people who want to help you makes it more so. And it won’t do your career any good if someone labels you as difficult to work with. You may be passed up for opportunities and you won’t even realize it.

stressed out

If you’re the one slighted, do your best to move on. If that means you’re no longer talking to that person, so be it. Publishing IS stressful, writing, emotionally draining. You need to protect your mental health, too.

Friendships can come and go, but it’s difficult to repair a business connection.

Don’t burn your bridges. You never know when you’ll have to circle back.


To be clear, I didn’t mention any of my experiences to throw my friends and acquaintances under the bus. I mentioned them to demonstrate I know how it feels to be treated in a manner that is hurtful and unprofessional. I have other examples of people using my generous nature against me–to the point of a friend of mine saying I should stop helping people.

I couldn’t do that, though. For every one person who ignores what I offer, five people appreciate any information I can give them. Be it my favorite stock photo sites, or a reminder that KDP Print offers templates to format the interiors of paperback books.

For every one person who ignores my edits, another person’s writing is brought to the next level.

I’ll probably never stop helping people. I enjoy it too much. But neither am I a doormat, and if you treat me poorly, that’s on you, not me.

If you treat anyone without respect and kindness, you need to look inside yourself and figure out why. But the secret is no one has to be friends with you, no one has to do business with you, and one day you may very well find yourself alone.

being helpful

If you enjoy helping and being part of the writing community, don’t let one bad apple ruin the whole barrel. There are lots of people out there who need help–and one day you’ll find yourself in a group of friends you can trust to help you in return.

That’s what the writing community is all about.

photos taken from pixabay or canva. graphics made in canva.com

jared and leah for end of blog posts

Where I’m at with my Wedding Party Series

jaredandleah

My first try at creating an aesthetic. All pictures taken from Pexels/Pixabay/Unsplash


 

I said since there is going to be such a long time between releases, I would try to update my fabulous readers better on my writing process while I write my Wedding Party Series. It used to be called my Bridesmaid Quartet, but as I was planning out my characters, I realized I was writing about only three bridesmaids and a groomsman. The Wedding Party series is a little more accurate, and more than likely that’s what I’ll call it when I publish it.

So where am I at?

Okay, well, first of all, I had carpal and cubital tunnel surgery on January tenth. I was able to write 35,000 words (about half of my book) before that, and I was pleased the book sounded as well as it did as a first draft. Had I not had to take time to recuperate, I more than likely could have had the first book done by now.

But I did something I don’t like doing.

I left a previous book undone. The Years Between Us was technically done when I opened the file for Jared and Leah (I always name the file by my characters’ names because it takes a while for me to think up a title), but it wasn’t edited. That’s what I had planned to do while I was in recovery.

Recovery took a little longer than I had expected, and I slept a lot. I watched a lot of Netflix. Luckily, I had thought ahead and planned out a few blog posts, so my website didn’t go neglected. I tried to tweet when I could. But mostly I gave myself a pass and took two weeks of a needed break from a very hectic publishing schedule so far.

The Years Between Us

The unofficial cover for The Years Between Us. Made with Canva.com and photo from canstockphoto.com

I have been able to give The Years Between Us two on screen editing sweeps. I usually print it out and edit it on paper, but I’m thinking this time I’ll skip that step and go straight to the listening part of it. Thinking about this after writing this section of my post, I realized I can’t skip this step. When I edit on paper, that is when I break up my book into chapters. I don’t write my book with chapters in mind, only breaking up my POV changes with scene breaks, and when I print out my book, it’s easier to “chunk it up” while in paper form.  

I’ll be working on two books simultaneously, and I don’t particularly care for it, but I like writing Jared and Leah and there’s no rush to put out The Years Between Us. When I DO get it done, it will be going on a long preorder, just so I don’t have so long between books, though by romance indie publishing standards, since I published All of Nothing in October, I should have another book out now.

Anyway, I did realize not long ago while I was reading my friend Aila’s blog, I’ll need to change a few things, and the sooner the better. Most of the time I don’t care what I name my characters as long as I haven’t used the name before, and it matches what I think the character looks like. Towns are the same. Sometimes I look up names, sometimes I steal them from work. (I work in a call center and see names of cities and towns all day long.) Sometimes I use a name generator. I didn’t think anything of using Blue Ridge, Minnesota for my small town’s name. Until I was reading a blog post of Aila’s. Color me surprised when I saw this:

Harlot of Blue Ridge

Beautiful! (And used with permission. Thanks, Aila!)

All I can think is that the name of her book kind of got stuck in my mind. I mentioned it to her, and she was very gracious, saying I didn’t need to change it. But she thought of it first, she’s further into her WIP than I am, and seriously, there are so many other names to choose from, I don’t need to steal borrow anyone else’s. I can’t tell you how excited I am to read her book though, and if you want to follow along with her writing journey, you should follow her blog and give her a follow on Twitter. I can’t tell you enough how impressed I am with what she gives to the indie writing community.

I am not going to lie: it’s been hard to get back into the swing of things. I’m not 100% healed, meaning, I’m not 100% pain free. My doctor said it could take my body up to 12 months to repair itself. On the bright side, I don’t feel any worse than when I did before my surgery, and if I could type through the pain then, I can type through it now.

I went back to work last week, so I’m hoping that returning to a schedule will help me make better use of my time.

In my next blog post, I’ll break down what I’m doing with Jared and Leah, and maybe share an excerpt or two of what’s been going on!

Until next time!

jared and leah for end of blog posts

 

Where do you find readers? Part 2

finding readers for your books blog posts part 2

 

In part one, I wasted your time went over a few things you can do to draw in readers. Starting with a quality product. That’s mandatory, but not everyone does. You’ve seen the poor covers, bad blurbs, and horribly written look insides. But no one is immune, and if you’re not selling books, or not selling as many books as you think you should be, try to find an unbiased opinion and see if you can find where the problem is.

Now, with that being said, readers are out there. But how do you find them?

Start Small

There are promo sites that don’t cost an arm and a leg. How well they work, I have no idea. But if you listen to lots of podcasts of author interviews like I do, you’ll slowly build a list of promo sites that are used by other authors. Some of these require a certain number of reviews. Almost all of them vet books so if your cover doesn’t look nice, or the person who runs the promo site thinks your writing is terrible, they won’t promote your book, no matter how much you pay them.

eBookSoda. Their prices have gone up since I’ve checked into them last. They review your book before they promote, and they do have a few guidelines you have to meet for them to accept your book.

ebook soda promo site

ebook soda promo site2

At twenty dollars to give it a try, that doesn’t seem like a huge investment. I’ve spent more and have gotten nothing in return.

eReader News Today.

They are a little spendier, but I’ve heard good things about them. They also vet, so be prepared for an actual person to look at your book.

ereader-pricing-table-heading

ereader news today requirements

I’m not going to go through every single promo site out there. I’ve only used Freebooksy and BargainBooksy for my promos, but when I release my next book, I may spread my wings a bit. There are promo sites out there that cost less than what they charge, and they may expose me to new readers.

Dave Chesson has a very large list of promo sites if you want to browse. But the main idea is that putting money into the marking of your book doesn’t have to break the bank.

Paying to Play

Indie readers don’t want to accept that to find readers (especially if they are on Twitter and tweet about their book for free all the time) that at some point you are going to have to invest in your books. There is no other way for anyone to know your books are out there. There’s billions of people in the world. How are you going to reach them if you can’t break out of Writer Twitter? It’s next to impossible.

Richard Blake had this to say about the current state of advertising:

2018 ushered in a time when visibility we used to take for granted on Amazon basically disappeared. The long tail on new releases has been compressed to only weeks, and with the elimination of free books from the also boughts and from the search functions, it’s almost impossible to get any free visibility now on the largest seller of books in the world.

So what’s left?

Paying to play, also known as advertising. The rest of this blog will be devoted to my experience with Zon advertising, and the conclusions I’ve drawn after reluctantly beginning a concentrated effort about mid-year.

If you’re interested in what else he has to say, you can check out and subscribe to his blog here.

I’ve written about my success, or lack thereof, about Amazon before, and you can check out my blog post here. So I’m not going to bother rehashing old ground. If you want to learn how to do them, there are a lot of authors who provide courses and books. My favorite is Brian Meeks. He has a book about Amazon Ads, and I used to recommend it a lot. I’ve heard that Amazon has changed the way they do ads, so his step-by-step instructions are no longer applicable. Concepts of patience, testing, and slowly building your ad, however, are still great advice. Despite not being able to point you in the direction of his book, he’s done several interviews for podcasts as well, and he spoke at the 20 Books to 50K Conference in Vegas this past November. Check out his talk!

 

If you want more details, check out Chris McMullen’s blog post about the recent changes and how to work with them.

I’ve had a little success–meaning my bids are getting clicks, I’m seeing some buys, and I’m not spending a huge amount of money (not in enough to put me in the black with ROI, but you have to start somewhere). Figuring out ads is like learning to swim. You’re going to get a lot of water up your nose before you can float without drowning. This is a bad metaphor for me, as I still only know how to doggy paddle, but such is life.

I haven’t tried Facebook ads, mainly because I’ve heard they will take your money and run, unlike Amazon. Plus, I don’t have that many books out yet. I’ve read Michael Cooper’s book, Help! My Facebook Ads Suck! and that was extremely helpful. He, too, was at the 20 Books to 50K conference and you can watch his talk. 🙂

I’ll do a Part 3 later. I’ve given you lots to consider right now. Please go through those promo sites. If you can save five dollars a week and buy a $20 dollar promo for a reader newsletter once a month, that’s a great start when you thought you couldn’t afford to run ads at all.

Thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any thoughts, ideas, or things you’re going to try going in to 2019 and selling your books!

 

Good luck!

Author Interview with CJ Douglass–plus an awesome giveaway for the holidays!

cj douglass author pictureI met CJ Douglass, erotica writer extraordinaire, on Twitter, and I was lucky enough for her to agree to an interview. We chat about writing erotica, the bad rep indie erotica has in the publishing community, and her real thoughts on Faleena Hopkins!

Make a cup of coffee, grab a seat, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway! In light of the holidays,  I’m giving away this super-cute mug and an Amazon gift card worth $25.00. Treat yourself to a couple of books for the holidays! Why not?

 

 

Let’s start!

 

pink panties1. For the most part, you write short fiction (novelettes, novellas). Do you think short work is easier or harder to sell? 

In my line of work (Erotica) the shorter the better! Which is what makes my recent fondness for only novellas somewhat unfortunate…

For pure smut, people seem to want to read something hot and short. Get a quick hit of the sexy and get out. I myself, though, like a little more story in there most of the time, and so my word counts have slowly been increasing. As my sales resultantly decrease. For less NSFW tales, however, longer works definitely sell better.

pink panties2. Your genre of choice is erotica. Do you find it hard to market? For example, Amazon loves to bury my erotica novellas in search results. How do you combat that? 

Amazon doesn’t let you advertise Erotica on their platform, so there the best you can hope for is to optimize your search results and pray.

There are tools for aiding in this (which I have not yet availed myself of, but plan to) but otherwise my main outreach is on Twitter. Not for advertising, exactly. I post promos, sure, but not that often. I like to put myself out there, let people get to know me – and one day perhaps those folks will check out one of my stories because of this relationship. Then another. Maybe even tell a friend!

Blogging is a tool many use – and I’m sure it’s helpful, but I just don’t have any writing energy left over for it! I do have a few free stories on my website that people can read to get a taste of what I have to offer in my paid-for work. Mostly though, yeah. Get my keywords right, and have as good a cover as I can create.

pink panties3. Indies have to push against the idea our work in inferior. Writers who publish poorly written erotica enforces this idea (and OMG, you know there’s some out there). How do you push back against this misconception? (For example, do you read craft books, have an English degree, hire an editor.) 

I don’t have money for an editor (my stories sometimes don’t make back the handful of dollars I spend on a cover image) but for anything novella-length or above I use beta readers, for sure.

I’ve spent my whole life reading and writing (I literally started reading novels at the age of four) so I have a sense of what the language should sound like. I took creative writing in high school (though my college classes were more science-based) and yes, I’ve read my share of craft books (and internet articles).

Odd as it may sound, screenplay craft really has helped me hone my skills. It doesn’t help with the prose, (that is down to my own dedication and extensive rereading and revision) but it does aid in the creation of the story itself. Indie books (not just Erotica, but all genres) tend to suffer from a lack of editing of the concepts and basic storycraft – even if it has been line-edited by a professional.

Making sure your plot and story (two different concepts, incidentally) build and flow well is of vital importance – and getting it right immediately lifts your work above the crowd (in my opinion).

Screenplays, being condensed stories, are good training in this particular art.

pink panties4. Will you ever write longer work? Perhaps a full-length novel? 

Funny you should bring that up! I’m getting a draft of my novel ready for beta readers as we speak. It’s an epic, post-apocalyptic tale – but a very heightened one, that should be fun and empowering as well as dark and depressing. I’m really excited about this book, as it’s a concept I actually came up with when I was thirteen or fourteen, and have only recently dug back out and developed properly.

pink panties5. How did you become a part of Writer Twitter? Do you find it beneficial in sales? How do you like the writing community in terms of support?

I resisted Twitter for a long time, actually. It seemed pointless to me. How wrong could I have been? I have met some of my best friends there, and the support from my peers has been priceless.

You also get a chance to connect with readers (both your own and others’) to share in the joy and to see what people like.

As for sales? It has a certain impact, for sure. I’d venture to say that a good chunk of my meager sales came from letting people know about the stories on that platform. I doubt Twitter is useful as a large-scale marketing tool for books, however. It’s more for generally making people aware of your presence than specifically selling your work.

pink panties6. You told me in a couple of Tweets you design your own covers. Can you take us through the process? Where do you find your inspiration, photos, etc. 

The process, generally, is me hopelessly moving images around in my template until something looks half-way decent! Usually, I’ll have an idea in my head – and then can’t find any images to fit that general concept. I then settle for something which is not at all like that first notion, but which suits the story anyway.

When I am planning ahead, I browse for photos (either free ones on places like Pixabay, or cheap ones at 123rf.com) first and allow them to inspire me for a good cover idea. This way, I’m not fighting a preconception, but can evolve a cover idea based on the available
images.

If I had any design training, I could tell you why something looks right in a certain place, and more easily find that balance. As it is, I haphazardly arrange elements until they “feel” right to me. I also involve my Twitter followers in the process sometimes, too!

pink panties7. You have a book titled The Cocky Author. Is this a hat tip (or perhaps a sneer) to Faleena Hopkins? Can you share your thoughts on how all that went down? 

Cocky Romance Author was the quickest I’ve ever written a story.

When Faleena Hopkins’ now-notorious copyright scandal came to light, I immediately wanted to thumb my nose at her for it – despite not generally being a Romance author. (I have since written some stories that might be classifiable under that banner, however.)
I knew if I was going to do it, I’d have to do it quickly. This wasn’t about creating a work of art; I was making a statement.

So the next day, I typed up the 9,000 word story (it was supposed to be shorter, but I found myself unable to write something without a good underlying character arc) and cleaned it up a little to post that evening. I wasn’t the first to get out a protest “cocky” story, I don’t think, but I was right up there. I made the story as cheap as Amazon would allow me to (99c) because it was not about profit, but about activism and generally making noise about this divisive issue.

It should be obvious to anyone that a common descriptive word cannot be copyrighted in this way – but it did not stop Miss Hopkins or those following in her footsteps from doing precisely that.

Thank goodness these spurious claims keep getting shut down – eventually.

pink panties8. You run your website through Wix. How has your experience been? 

Wix is a generally decent site builder, I think. Better than some I have used. I only have a free one for the moment, though I think paying for it would allow the site to be found in search engines. Hard to justify the expense for now, though. What it needs right now is an overhaul! I’m still using the very first template I threw together, and really have to get it redone. Whenever I can find the time…

I love being able to host a place that gathers together not only links to my books (Amazon does that already!) but lets me include free stories that give potential readers a place to sample my work in tales that are complete – not mere snippets of a longer story.
Whether it helps my sales or not I can’t say, but theoretically it ought to be useful for curious readers!

Thank you CJ! It sounds like you have a lot going on right now! Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions and explain a little bit about your writer’s life. 🙂

You can find CJ on Twitter, Amazon, and Goodreads! Check out her author website for the free goodies, and as always, don’t forget to sign up for the giveaway! It will run for a little bit, so don’t forget to tell your friends.

Thanks for joining us, and check back when I talk about shopping in your local indie bookstore, and how my Freebooksy promo did for All of Nothing!

Until next time!

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When Do You Recommend Your Friends’ Books?

The indie writing community is very tight-knit. Make one of us mad, we all get mad. I think Faleena Hopkins figured that out quick enough. We support each other; we help each other. We do free things for each other: cover help; editing; beta reading.

We even do some naughty stuff like review trading.

We tweet each other’s books.

Lately, there have been a couple of people asking for book recommendations from indie authors. They want to start a list on their website, or they want to start reviewing indie books.

There were lots of tweets, as you can imagine.

And there was something that surprised me, but I guess it shouldn’t have. Someone was recommending books they haven’t read. How do I know this? For one, I know she doesn’t read indie. Two, she’s a very picky writer, and I don’t think she would have recommended these books had she read them. (That is a polite way of saying they could have used more editing.)

This made me do one of my super researching techniques: I ran a poll on Twitter. While the participant number was low, the results still stunned me.

indie books

I’m trying to figure this out because this bothers me.

Why would you recommend a book to someone if you haven’t read it? Would you walk into a bookstore, grab any old book off the shelf, and tell your friend it was fabulous and a must-read? Of course not.

This seems to be an indie-only thing, like not full-justifying your margins in your books when you format or adding your cover designer to the book’s contributors when you publish. Indies start stuff traditionally published authors don’t do. And the more indie authors do it, the more it becomes acceptable and the more newbie authors do it.

Of course I want to support my friends. But we all know indie writers don’t read that much. We might beta read, or be a critique partner, and that’s fine. It’s a little different in that I would assume the published book is different from a draft a beta or CP read. But at least you know the gist of the story, know if the book has proper punctuation and grammar.

At least you know the story makes sense.

But what are you doing to your own credibility if you recommend a book to someone you haven’t read and that someone takes you seriously? What if that someone takes a peek at the look inside on Amazon. What if that book has no established POV, or doesn’t have a good hook (AKA boring as f*ck)? What if the formatting is messed up, or has typos in it? What if the first paragraph head-hops into five different heads?

There were a couple comments in that tweet thread that asked the question: Who doesn’t read their friends?

Well, quite a few if my own track record is anything to go by. I can count on one hand the number of my friends who have picked up Wherever He Goes and read it cover to cover.

And if you want to ask me what indies I’ve read in the past few months, I can say one. And it was someone I edited for back in February. Otherwise, I’m busy writing or reading craft books, or reading trad-pubbed romance books. I don’t read indie simply for the fact that most of my friends don’t write what I like to read–contemporary romance. And then another reason I don’t read indie much anymore is if they find out I’m reading their book, they expect a review. I won’t leave a bad indie review. I won’t do it. So I don’t want my friends to wonder where their review is because there won’t be one if I don’t like their book.

Given those reasons, I rarely recommend indie books on Twitter. I recommend how-to publishing books or marketing books. I recommend trad-pubbed books that do something well that could be used as an example to my fellow writers.

I think it’s great that we help our friends. But if we want to help our friends, we should do it in a different way. Pass along promo sites. Recommend books you’ve read on how to do proper Facebook ads or Amazon ads. Marketing your friends’ books is not your job.

Sure, I’m flattered when someone posts a picture of my book on Instagram, or tweets about it. (And yeah, less five people have done that for me anyway.) But I don’t expect it and I don’t ask. My readers aren’t on Twitter. They aren’t even following me on Instagram right now–I got sucked into the writing world there, too. {KT Daxon is a good one for this, and I have to give her credit where credit is due. She does a great job of promoting the books she reads, and she truly does read the books she says she does.}

I would only recommend books I’ve read. It’s honest.

And you want people to be able to trust you, not question your taste.

Not question how good your books are.

I know this blog post sounds like I don’t think indies can write and publish good books. That’s not the case. What I am saying is that some indie books could use more editing. And I understand why indies don’t. It’s expensive and time-consuming. Waiting for an editor to get back to you is like sitting on pins and needles, and then you have to put in all the edits once you get them back. A total edit could push your pub date back by several months. But let’s not pretend that indies aren’t impatient, and rushing to publish is a mistake a lot of indies make.

This reminds me of the trad-pubbed writing community. I’m exposed to a lot of YA on Twitter and Instagram. It seems like a lot of YA authors do read other YA authors and tweet about their books and support each other. Being trad-pubbed is like being in a club, and those authors have each other’s backs.

Romance writers are the same way:

lori foster brenda novak

Here’s Brenda Novak reading Lori Foster for a book club Brenda is going to hold in her Facebook Author Group.

That’s real support. That’s real networking and collaboration.

There’s lot of bad things to say about the traditional publishing industry, but this isn’t one of them.

Let’s support our friends the right away.

Read the books you’re recommending. Because reading a book and having a discussion about the book with its author would mean a lot to the author, and a tweeted conversation about a plot twist or an evil character is true promotion.

Do you have any good reasons for recommending books you haven’t read? Let me know!

 

Blog book promo for the end of blog posts

 

What do You do with Promo Photos? And Better Yet, WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?

We all see these cute photos of people’s books, you know? If you don’t know, you’re not on Twitter much, or you haven’t liked many Facebook author pages. Let me give you some examples. Hold on while I dredge some up.

wherever he goes promo composite

This is mine for my latest book I put out in June. That looks pretty cool, right? Or how about Aila’s, when she did her cover reveal for her new Women’s Fiction, Alabama Rain:

alia's cover reveal

Hers is pretty fancy; those books stacked on that nice shelf. And I love her cover. I am so excited to read this book. She made an awesome trailer, too, and you can watch it here. Anyway, I can make something similar with mine (but not the same because her skill set and my skill set vary greatly):

whereverhegoespromowithsunflower

The best part about the 3D mockup maker I use is that you can download a PNG without any background, which makes it very easy to place your book onto a different background, and you can make a super cute promo like this:

aila's promo

But what the heck are you going to do with it?

Aila says she puts hers at the end of her blog posts, making the photo clickable and driving traffic to her Amazon page. That’s not a bad idea. But she blogs–a lot. And consistently. Who can say they do that? Not me. But you should totally check out her blog. She writes very informative posts about the indie publishing industry, and she knows a lot of writing resources she generously shares.

I mean, you want photos out there. Someone might Pin It, or Retweet it, if it’s cute. I found this one somewhere and saved it for reference because I’m terrible at design:

book promo idea

Text is good, you know? A tagline, a teaser.

I made this messing around in Canva, trying to practice, develop my eye:

He's her boss, but he's got his eye on her. She doesn't know what she wants.He has demons to spare.And she has an ex that just won't quit.

Canva is good for stuff like that. It makes placing photos in composites a lot easier if you don’t know your way around GIMP or Photoshop. I made this in Canva using my Kindle cover for the first book in my trilogy:

Don't Run Away Promo

Of course, you need to make sure the photos you are using, like the sunflower on the shelf, and this work photo, are okay for commercial use since you’re trying to sell your books. At least, I’m going to assume you are.

But the problem is, there’s a ton of this stuff out there, and it’s annoying. You can Tweet it all the time but people will unfollow you. You can’t post it on Instagram all the time, because then you’re pegged a self-promoter and no one will follow your account.

So, I make promo photos, and then I don’t do anything with them.

But part of this blog post was to tell you where you can do this stuff, so take a look at the programs I’ve used:

FREE ONLINE BOOK MOCKUP MAKER
Derek Murphy runs this site, and he’s got a lot of great information about making covers yourself. He has a YouTube channel, and it’s worth checking out. I used this to make the first picture in this blog post, and I’ve done it for my friends, just to see how it looks with other covers:

stealing home promo

wolves of dynamoThis is a free site, though the positions of the books are somewhat limited. But it’s free and the program places the covers for you, so you take what you can get, right? If you want to place the books anywhere else, like a shelf, you need to use a program to place them onto a different background. I use GIMP to keep my hand in (I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out the very small percentage of what I do know); it’s a free version of Photoshop. But you can use Canva, too, which is a lot easier to figure out.

shelf with sailboatandbook
I bought the shelf photo from canstockphoto.com. Wolves of Dynamo is a fantasy YA geared for both boys and girls, so I didn’t want to put with anything too girlie, or something that wouldn’t fit the genre. (I showed it to the author, and Gareth gave me a tough time. LOL)

Anyway, so give the mockup maker a try. Use pixabay.com and find workstation photos. All their photos are free for commercial use. Placing your book’s cover onto a Kindle mockup is easy using Canva. Just like any software, it may take a little bit to get used to, but that’s part of the fun of making these, right?

Because it’s not like you can shove them in people’s faces all day long–people will get bored with you, fast.

This is the quick mockup I made of David’s book:

shelf with lampstealinghome

If you make a lot of these, you probably want to experiment with different ways your book looks. Stacks, like Aila’s above, or just one, or all your mockups will start to look the same.

If you do the stacks, you’ll need to have a picture of your spine and better skills because the 3D maker I linked you to doesn’t have a stacks option. I haven’t bothered with that, just because there’s only so much time I want to take messing around. And it takes a lot of time to make these things if you don’t know the software; it takes a bit of practice.

It can be a nice break though, from writing, to mess around with this kind of thing.

Aila used a different website to find her mockups, and she put a lot of work into those, but she knows Photoshop really well, and she makes her own book covers, too. I think she does a fantastic job!

Also, you can get a lot of ideas just Googling book cover mockups. On Twitter, I’ve seen people advertising to do this for you but they charge a bit. If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can hire someone from Fiverr. Sometimes if you hire a cover designer, they’ll make a couple of these for you, too. But again, it’s like, what are you really going to do with them? You know? If you like design and want to put the time in, practice so you can get to know the software for other things like, maybe eventually you’ll want to make your own covers. Then you don’t have to bother your cover designer or ask their permission every time you want to create a mockup.

I’ve given you some ideas on the book cover mockups for promos, and where you can go to make them. But don’t be wasting your time messing around with these when you should be writing. It’s fun to learn how to do these, but if you don’t have a book to market, it’s all pretty pointless, anyway.

Have fun, and good luck!

Vanias Books Promo